CES 2019 marks the year the Brits lastly stepped up their recreation on the Las Vegas expo, after a number of years of half-hearted attendance when the nation languished within the wake of tech trailblazers such because the US, China and France. Flying the flag for the UK’s tech sector on the present was the federal government’s Division for Worldwide Commerce. The hope was to extend inward funding within the nation’s tech scene, in addition to increase exports and strengthen present buying and selling partnerships.
The British Pavilion on the present ground at Eureka Park was double the dimensions it was in 2018, and startups on the stand had been all smiles because of experiences of gross sales and distributor offers they’d efficiently secured through the present. The rectangular sales space was a hive of exercise and amiable dialog. And by no means in my life have I seen so many males in fits at a tech present.
Over on the opposite aspect of the Atlantic, in the meantime, all’s not so upbeat and rosy. With the UK’s impending divorce from the EU shifting nearer by the day, and no deal on the horizon, there is a distinct air of hysteria lingering over the British financial system, and the tech sector is way from immune. The nation’s larger presence at a world commerce present is well timed, on condition that this a vital second for the UK to strengthen its hyperlinks with the tech world past Europe.
On Wednesday, ZDnet reported that funding in British tech fell final yr amid widespread uncertainty over Brexit. The UK nonetheless continues to draw probably the most enterprise capital funding in Europe, however numbers are down, whereas funding in France and Germany is on the up.The UK’s automotive sector can be struggling, with Jaguar Land Rover saying four,500 job cuts to its 40,000-strong British workforce on Wednesday, citing uncertainty over Brexit as one of many causes. At a CES occasion Monday, Liam Fox, secretary of state for worldwide commerce, declared that tech was “indispensable” to the post-Brexit prosperity of the UK.
“That is our greatest illustration up to now at CES and is indicative of a UK with a genuinely international outlook,” Fox mentioned. Two years in the past, the CEO of the group that organizes the tech present hit out on the UK on stage at CES. The nation’s lack of help for its tech firms needs to be a “supply of embarrassment,” mentioned Gary Shapiro, chief govt of the Shopper Expertise Affiliation. On the opening keynote presentation of this yr’s present, Shapiro introduced Fox with an award for the UK’s elevated presence, although Fox, an outspoken proponent of leaving the EU, was heckled by the viewers with cries of “Brexit.”
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“We applaud that the UK has stepped up its presence at CES in a significant manner, reflecting a renewed dedication to innovation and entrepreneurship,” the CTA’s senior worldwide communications supervisor, Teresa Hsu, mentioned in an announcement. Talking to a number of sources from throughout the UK expertise trade on the present, the consensus was that Britain would’ve stepped up its recreation at CES no matter Brexit, however that the looming March deadline might have accelerated issues.
“There is no such thing as a better stage to do enterprise,” Fox mentioned in an announcement.
High quality vs. amount
Largely, the elevated UK presence at CES is right down to Mike Quick, former Telefonica vice chairman, who now serves as a authorities advisor. “Once I got here to CES final yr as the brand new chief scientific advisor to the division of worldwide commerce, it was clear that our impression was somewhat underwhelming,” Quick mentioned in an interview. “So I mentioned let’s go and speak about it with colleagues again within the UK, and so they agreed with me that we might step up.”
The variety of firms has roughly trebled to over 100 this yr, he added, and subsequent yr he’d prefer to see the federal government enhance its presence within the well being and wellness sector on the present. Despite the year-on-year progress of the variety of British firms exhibiting at CES, the UK Pavilion continues to be dwarfed by that of the French, which took up round 1 / 4 of the area within the Eureka Park startup part of the present with a few of the 414 firms the nation dropped at CES this yr.
The UK might have a smaller contingent, however some British firms have succeeded in making a huge impact.
First-time CES customer Moasure received the Showstoppers LaunchIt startup competitors. The corporate got here to the present with its motion-based measuring instrument, a bit puck you may transfer from level to level as an alternative of utilizing a tape measure.
Moasure CEO Alan Rock, who’s been creating the corporate’s expertise for over 16 years, mentioned he is undecided the corporate would’ve been capable of attend this yr with out authorities backing.
“There’s completely no manner we might have gotten to the place we acquired to with out the help,” he mentioned. “It is a very precious prize — we could not have afforded to do this as a startup.”
Not all UK exhibitors supported by the federal government are new to the present this yr. Entrepreneur Janko Mrsic-Flogel has been coming to CES on and off since 1995. He mentioned help from the British authorities waned over time however is lastly trying up once more.
In gentle of Brexit, it appears the UK authorities is placing renewed power into its relationship with the US, and that its larger displaying at CES this yr is only one a part of that. Each Quick and Fox emphasised that they noticed the tech trade within the US, which shall be price £400 million (about $510 million) this yr in keeping with the CTA, as a possibility for Britain.
“We have to get a giant slice of that,” mentioned Fox, “and admittedly, whether or not Britain was leaving or staying within the European Union, we have to increase our act.”
The UK is trying additional afield too, to the international locations which are booming in Asia, Quick mentioned.
“We’d like to ensure we settle for that lots of science and expertise, which leads these exports, is a worldwide exercise,” he mentioned. “So staying concerned with all kinds of nations of innovation is an efficient factor that we have traditionally carried out, and can proceed to do.”